Hepatitis B virus infection (HBV) is a significant global health problem. Despite the success of universal hepatitis B vaccination in many countries, more than 350 million individuals worldwide are chronically infected and 15- 40% of those will develop cirrhosis and/or hepatocellular carcinoma if left untreated. Available therapies for chronic hepatitis B (CHB) infection are effective at decreasing viremia and improving measured clinical outcomes, however, no single therapy is optimal. As such, alternative drug therapies and the investigation of their role in the management of CHB are warranted. Significant improvements in the understanding of the HBV life cycle, viral genomics, and virus-host interactions continue to lead to the development of novel viral targets and immune modulators. Currently, two major classes of agents are utilized in CHB: the interferons and the nucleos(t)ide analogues. Each agent has individual advantages and drawbacks. The development of specific antiviral therapy has led to the emergence of HBV drug-resistant strains that has limited the long-term therapeutic potential of available agents. This necessitates the development of new agents that target both wild-type and drug-resistant strains. Further understanding of the basic mechanisms and clinical nuances of drug therapy is warranted. As most novel therapies are in the earliest stages of clinical development and testing, in the near future, treatment will continue to be long-term and likely involve the use of combination therapies to prevent viral resistance. In this review, we will highlight the HBV life cycle and genome, focusing in on current and potential novel antiviral drug targets as well as the benefits and clinical challenges with these therapies.
Keywords: HBV, interferon, drug resistance, nucleoside/nucleotide analogues, lamivudine, entecavir, adefovir
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